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Eichelberger v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Gainesville Division

June 2, 2017

JESSIE JAMES EICHELBERGER, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          CHARLES A. STAMPELOS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This Social Security case was referred to the undersigned magistrate judge upon consent of the parties and reference by United States District Judge William Terrell Hodges. ECF No. 14. After consideration of the entire record, the Court reverses the decision of the Acting Commissioner (Commissioner) and remands the case for further consideration.

         I. Procedural History

         On February 12, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for Supplemental Security Income, alleging disability beginning February 16, 2011. Tr. 95-115, 227-32, 250.[1] The claim was initially denied on April 9, 2013, and again on reconsideration on August 6, 2013. Tr. 103, 115. Plaintiff requested a hearing, and a hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Kelley Fitzgerald (ALJ) on April 23, 2015. Tr. 56-89. A supplemental hearing was held on November 20, 2015, after additional medical records were submitted. Tr. 34-55. Both hearings were held in Jacksonville, Florida, and Plaintiff was represented by counsel in both hearings. Tr. 56, 34. Plaintiff testified at each hearing. Tr. 60-82, 40-51. Ted Mitchell, an impartial vocational expert, testified at the first hearing and A. Mark Capps, an impartial vocational expert, testified at the second hearing. Tr. 83-88, 51-54. On March 16, 2016, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision concluding that the Plaintiff was not disabled, as defined in the Social Security Act, 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(g), and denying Plaintiff's claims. Tr. 19-29. Plaintiff's request for review was denied on September 9, 2016. Tr. 1-3. Thus, the decision of the ALJ is the final agency action. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981.

         On November 11, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in the United States District Court, with exhibits, seeking review of the ALJ's decision. ECF No. 1; ECF Nos. 1-1 through 1-5. On February 3, 2017, the Defendant filed an Answer. ECF No. 10. The record was also filed on February 3, 2017. ECF No. 11 (11-1 through 11-22). Both parties filed memoranda of law, which have been considered. ECF Nos. 15, 16.

         II. Findings of the ALJ

         The ALJ made several findings and conclusions relative to the issues raised in this appeal:

1. “The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since February 12, 2013, the application date.” Tr. 21 (citations omitted). The ALJ noted that the medical record suggests that the claimant worked as an auto mechanic subsequent to the application date, but that the work activity did not rise to the level of substantial gainful activity. Id.
2. “The claimant has the following severe impairments: disorders of the right hip; disorders of the spine; disorders of the left shoulder; and chronic obstructive disease (COPD).” Tr. 21. The ALJ noted that the record suggests excessive use of alcohol but does not show any ongoing diagnosis of a substance abuse disease; and that this is not a medically determinable impairment. Id.
3. “The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.” Tr. 21. The ALJ noted that the claimant's physical impairments, singly or in combination, do not meet or medically equal the criteria of the listed impairments, in particular the listing under Section 1.00 (Musculoskeletal Disorders) and 3.00 (Respiratory Impairments) in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. 416.920(d)). Id. The ALJ further noted that the medical records do not demonstrate that all the requirements set forth by any of the aforementioned listings have been met and that no treating or examining physician has mentioned findings equivalent in severity to the criteria of any listed impairment (20 C.F.R. 416.920(c)). Id. at 21-22.
4. “[T]he claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 416.967(a) except with a need for a handheld assistive device for any walking; no more than frequent climbing ramps/stairs; no more than occasional bilateral overhead reaching, stooping, crawling, climbing of ladders, ropes and scaffolds; no concentrated exposure to extreme heat/cold; avoid even moderate exposure to hazards (machinery, heights, etc.) or pulmonary irritants (dust, fumes, odors, gases, poor ventilation); no squatting or kneeling.” Id. at 22.
5. “The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work.” Tr. 26.
6. “The claimant . . . was 42 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 45-49, on the date the application was filed.” Id.
7. “The claimant has a limited education and is able to communicate in English.” Id.
8. “Transferability of job skills is not an issue in this case because the claimant's past relevant work is unskilled.” Id.
9. “Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform.” Id.
10. “The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since February 12, 2013, the date the application was filed.” Tr. 27. (citing 20 C.F.R. 416.920(g)).

         The ALJ decided that the claimant is not disabled under section 1614(a)(3)(A) ...


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